Spaniards in the U-Bahn March 19, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
…I know, I know, it’s serious.
So you’re out. You don’t that much fancy going home, feeling like quite a lot more booze. Thanks to some especially complicated combinations of interweaving U-Bahn lines and building works, the journey home from West to East that would normally be direct now involves a million changes. The permutations see you running between platforms at Wittenbergplatz. “Hm, if we take the U99 fifteen stops to Munich and then get the S-Bahn forty stops and change at Rostock, we should be home by Wednesday.”
It is the early hours. Most folk have imbibed. Which is usually the only time Germans ever make any noise. (When they are sober, they are racked with guilt for existing, and are immersed in friarly silence.) But, darlings, what are a few noisy Germans up against a carriageful of drunk Spaniards?
I sat in a restaurant earlier the same evening. Food standardly poor. The Russian had practically finished his main course, which ACTUALLY had tinned mushrooms and sauce-from-a-packet in it, by the time mine arrived. Waitress amazed that we wanted to order food and wine at all; it was clearly the first time it had happened to her in her career. The Russian and I know everything about each other – OK, that’s not true. I’ve only just discovered he used to collect stamps and metal badges, for example. And that his mother used to collect envelopes – so I spent my time sounding out the neighbours.
There was a provincial solo homo who’d come to Berlin on a shopping trip and to get away from it all and to have some space and some him-time. He was clearly having the most miserable day of his life. He whispered instructions for the waitress to bring him one deadening beer after another, hoping that the whisper slightly wouldn’t make them count. He played with his mobile. “Darling, we’d better befriend him.” “No.”
There was a nice couple on the other side. The girl had short hair which suited her and wore a top accentuating her womanly assets and cried in a nice way. I thought she’d had a bereavement. The Russian thought she’d been sacked. And her boyfriend, who was wearing a lovely boring jumper, dried an eye from across the table with each thumb (boys, it seemed to work awfully well, if you have crying girlfriends, girls, if you have crying new-men boyfriends, queers, lezzers, if you have crying queers, lezzers, and, thanks to the symmetry, there was no tricky left-right, brain-hand coordination to worry about). I remembered the moment in The Elephant Man where our eponymous hero of magnificent cranial dimension says, “I try so hard to be good,” as that normally makes me bucket, to see if the Russian would wipe my tears away with thumbs but I was too worried about my cigarette smoke and hoping that a smoking ban would be introduced that second to get the tears flowing.
Then there were two big tables of Germans. A group of young Germans. And a group of old Germans. And as my brain settled in for a nice bit of national stereotyping – check in soon for my next endearing post, “Why Welsh people have sex with sheep and Scottish people never open their wallets” – I thought Germans are much better old than young. The young Germans spent their whole meal worrying about the bill and when the bill actually came, the waitress needed to take a quick applied mathematics course online simultaneously while working out the minutiae of the payment. “Ja, aber Detlef, you had a bite of my Würstchen, so you must pay 5% of my bill.” “Aber moment, Waltraud,” said Detlef, who was not going to be outverarsched, “you knocked my Spezi-glass and some of it spilled, so I think that cancels out the Würstchen bite.” And so on. Whereas the old Germans were having a great old time of it. Two old couples and a widowed pal. They drank their beer. Pushed their glasses back up on their nose when their uproarious laughter got out of hand. Ate sausagey, cabbagey food without a thought for their waistlines and told stories like there was no tomorrow. Conversation flowed. Along with the booze. We’d gone by the time their bill came but if I know my senior German citizens, one of the men will have magnanimously taken out his EC-Karte and paid for the god-damned lot, brushing away Fritz-Harald and Sybille’s protestations. (Doris the widow will have secretly breathed a sigh of relief.)
“The English are better young than old,” I thought on. Young English people – by young, I mean up to 60, of course – are better at fun than young Germans. Whereas old English people just moan about their holidays and write letters of complaint all the time (in my enormous experience). “French? Better old than young. Danes? Better young than old. Finns? Always perfect. Russians? Better young than old.”
And I thought that was my national stereotyping done for the evening. But then came the Spaniards. My sister lives in Spain. She commented, as we sat in a restaurant in Berlin one evening, how quiet it was…
We got on our carriage with the gaggle of drunk Spaniards. One spoke drunkenly louder than the other till, within about thirty seconds, they were all shouting festively at the top of their voices. Utterly deafening. The Russian and I took our emergency glasses out of our man-bags and put them on so we could sneer over the top of them disapprovingly.
And then the train broke down. All but one of the lights went out so we sat in relative dinge. Which, naturally, the Spaniards decided was a cue to celebrate. They sang songs. They clapped. They played a game which involved kissing each other. And then two of the ladies actually started flamencoing in the carriage, twisting around and making esses with their arms. And then the train shuddered into semi-consciousness, and one of the flamencoing Spaniards fell and slid on her bum a quarter of the way down the carriage, landing perfectly at my feet. She said to me, “I dancing.” And with everyone around erupting into laughter, she thought she’d better make the most of the moment and cocked her head to one side and flipped one arm and one leg out as if receiving applause having just popped out of a cake. Then she showed us her arse, at which point a German gent who was enjoying the show more than anyone shouted, “Show us your tits,” which she didn’t understand, and perhaps just as well, as I’m sure she’d happily have obliged. And then they sang and danced on and the Russian and I and everyone laughed hysterically throughout and commented that there was, undeniably, a hint of cultural difference between Germans and Spaniards.
Spaniards are very good young.